Angela Merkel has agreed to cap the number of refugees arriving in Germany at 200,000, as a concession during coalition negotiations to form a new government.
Via: Jon Stone
The German chancellor, who has opened up Germany’s borders to people fleeing the wars in the Middle East and Africa, made the concession to secure the support of the regional Bavarian party the CSU (Christian Social Union).
The CSU, the regional sister party of Ms Merkel’s CDU, is more conservative than its counterpart in the rest of Germany and had demanded a more right-wing approach from the Chancellor to secure its support.
The change of policy comes after the far-right AfD party did well in the German federal elections last month, securing third place and becoming the first far-right party to enter the Bundestag in half a century.
The AfD made significant ground in the elections by playing off fears and concerns about refugees and migration in general, and after the results became clear Ms Merkel said she would try to solve the problems of people who had voted for the party to win their support.
Though a million refugees came to Germany at the height of the refugee crisis, the number has actually tailed off over, with 280,000 welcomed to Germany in the recent year. As a result, if numbers continue to decline, Germany may not have to turn refugees away as part of the policy.
Germany’s commitment still dwarfs that of the UK, which pledged to take just 20,000 Syrian refugees over five years – or 4,000 a year. The CSU-CDU agreement says that “the total number of the intake based on humanitarian reasons … shall not exceed 200,000 a year”.
The deal may actually be politically advantageous to Ms Merkel because it allows her to change course on a policy costing her party votes in some areas, without suffering the humiliation of a self-inflicted U-turn.
Speaking to reporters in Brussels a European Commission spokesperson said: “What we can say in general terms is that the Commission considers it extremely positive that the country that has already taken in more than one million refugees is showing readiness to welcome a further 200,000 persons a year.
“The Commission and its president has repeatedly stressed how much we welcome the leading role Germany has been playing in managing the refugee crisis and shaping a joint European approach to migration to which this commission has also been central.”
After securing the support of the CSU, against which the CDU does not stand in election, Ms Merkel now faces the harder task of securing the support of the liberals and greens – who she will need to form a majority government.
The “Jamaica coalition” – so-called because the parties’ colours resemble the Jamaican flag – has never been tried at a national level before, thought it has occurred in Germany’s state parliament.
The coalition is Ms Merkel’s only real option after her old grand coalition partners, the centre-left SPD, decided to return to opposition to lick their wounds after a historically awful election result last month.